This Spotlight post is for one of the most successful directors and one of my personal favourites: Christopher Nolan.
What films has he directed?
To name just a few: The Batman trilogy with Christian Bale starring as Batman, Inception, Shutter Island, Memento and Interstellar.
Working with big names and leading actors such as Leonardo DiCaprio, Christian Bale, Tom Hardy, and Joseph Gordon Levitt, Nolan’s films are not like most successful Blockbuster movies.
They don’t tap into your typical action films that use conventions like explosions and gunfights just to increase their ticket sales. Nolan’s films are thought-provoking, exciting and innovative. They’re filled with action but their explosions and fighting scenes are minor props when compared to Nolan’s storytelling skills and his vision.
Nolan’s films aren’t just for show – they’re films that get people talking and asking questions.
Questions like: Is Shutter Island’s Teddy (DiCaprio) really insane or is he really being fooled? Was Dom Cobb actually in a dream at the end of Inception? It’s questions like these that keep a great movie in our minds.
The term ‘genre’ eventually becomes pejorative because you’re referring to something that’s so codified and ritualised that it ceases to have the power and meaning it had when it first started. What I’m trying to do is to create modern equivalents that speak to me of those tropes that have more of the original power. – Christopher Nolan
What are his films like?
What I like about Nolan is that his films centre on (or involve in the slightest of ways) the inner workings of the mind.
The first Nolan film that I watched, and one of the first films that I studied at college, was Memento (2000). A film with a non-linear narrative, we follow Guy Pierce’s character Leonard as he tracks down his wife’s killer. With Leonard’s short term memory, he makes a note of every clue that he finds – and just how does he do that? By tattooing them on his skin of course… Watching the film we’re piecing together the clues as Leonard is, watching the film in a fragmented mix of flashbacks until his wife’s killer is found.
Memento was my first taste of Nolan’s psychological films. Even the Batman trilogy had this psychological element – particularly when it came to the Joker in The Dark Knight (2008). The Joker plays on the minds of his victims and enjoys making people a part of his game. When he captures Harvey Dent and Rachel, he knows that the Batman will want to save Rachel – so he plays on this by giving Batman Harvey Dent’s location. Then, with Harvey tormented by grief and anger, the Joker plays on this and creates a villain out of Harvey. He tarnishes Harvey’s “white knight” visage that the city of Gotham holds for him and turns him into revengeful Two-Face.
Inception is another clear example of Nolan’s love of getting the viewer’s cogs turning. The whole film is centred on the theme of dreams – most found the film confusing as the plot involves layers of a dream within a dream as the characters try to plant the idea inside a CEO’s mind to split up his father’s conglomerate company in order to benefit their competitor (who has asked the characters to perform the impossible task). The end of the film was one of the most talked about moments in cinema history – was Cobb really reunited with his children (as was his promised reward for completing the task) or is he in a dream?
His films keeps us guessing, they keep us wondering and they keep us talking. When most films try to leave us in the dark, they tend to frustrate and annoy us. But with Nolan’s films we feel like we’re in the maze with the character: at each turn they make, we too are wondering what’s around the corner – but in wonder and anticipation, not in irritation.
Films are subjective – what you like, what you don’t like. But the thing for me that is absolutely unifying is the idea that every time I go to the cinema and pay my money and sit down and watch a film go up on-screen, I want to feel that the people who made that film think it’s the best movie in the world, that they poured everything into it and they really love it. Whether or not I agree with what they’ve done, I want that effort there-I want that sincerity. And when you don’t feel it, that’s the only time I feel like I’m wasting my time at the movies. – Nolan
Have you seen one of Nolan’s films? Which one is your favourite?
Let me know in the comments below!